Life in a Wormhole: The Great Debate #eveonline

The next couple of days feel like one very long debate about the merits of joining a new alliance. I'm sure it's not the only thing we talked about it, but it's the only thing in my notes and the only thing I remember, so let the record show we talked about this a LOT.

The day passed much as the previous had; much as the next would.

The alliance does get back in touch with us, and quite quickly. A number of very informative and interesting conversations are had, and the upshot is that they'd like us to join them for a trial period. That's the good news. The bad news is they want us to, literally, join them. That is, to pull stakes and move our stuff into a system we'd share with one of the other member corporations.

To fair, even that isn't all bad news. We've realized benefits from sharing a wormhole with other pilots in the past, and we know it can work; extra eyes in the system, backup when you need it, more folks to chat and be social with, and (in this case) veteran wormhole inhabitants to get advice from. All good.

Also, it would be a 'better' system than the one we're in at the moment -- we could generate all the fuel for our tower locally (except for the stuff that just isn't available in any wormhole system), and the persistent connections from the new class two would be one to low security space (a skosh more dangerous, but WAY less tourist traffic) and to another class 2. This potentially provides a LOT more variety in our wormhole constellations every day, because that class 2 would in turn ALSO connect to another wormhole system, and so on. Currently, our class one neighbor usually just connects to... nobody, leaving us with fairly limited options.

The downsides are not inconsequential. As hard as moving in was, moving out will be worse, because (a) we've assembled a lot of ships that we originally brought in all packed up and easy-to-haul, and they can't be repackaged out in wormhole space (b) we've brought in more stuff since the first moving day (c) we know how bad it will be, so we'd be dreading it with a mighty dread. Couple that with the fact that, following moving out, we'd have to get everything back to some staging system, then move it all back IN somewhere else and put it all back up, and it sounds unappealing.

And what if it doesn't work out, either with the folks we're sharing the wormhole with (too many hands reaching for the same slices of pizza means we'd move to some other alliance-held system) or with the alliance as a whole (meaning we need to move out and find a new home on our own)?

Truly, these are First World Problems, but they're problems none the less.

To complicate matters, our home system seems to sense the possibility of our departure and tempts us with a cornucopia of riches -- every evening sees a new batch of good sleeper sites to run and the long drought of mining sites ends with a massive flourish. Knowing how comfortably profitable and fun our home system can be doesn't make our discussions any easier.

Though all the loot may help defray the costs of moving by a whole lot...

Assuming we move... which we may not.

Ugh. Tired of thinking about this. No more talky. Time to shoot ancient, evil, drone ships and grind their bones to make our bread.

Figuratively speaking.


Life in a Wormhole: Sifting through the White Noise #eveonline

My evemail box is brimming with messages when I log in, and for a few seconds I get excited; after talking it over with Gor and CB last night, I wrote up an official application to the wormhole alliance I've been talking with, and I was hoping that the the messages might be from them.

No such luck. Instead, my inbox is overstuffed with panicked, partially-spelled, partially-complete, partially-intelligible messages from the folks in our current alliance...

... who are mostly working out of nullsec space in the Catch region as 'pets' of the Against All Authorities alliance.

... which region has been under attack almost since the day our alliance moved in by "the Russians", a collective and fairly accurate tag for the multiple alliances that hold  most of the reaches of nullsec to the immediate east of Catch.

... which systems are currently falling like dominoes to said Russions while AAA flees... err, that is, "retreats" to the charmingly named "Stain" region, leaving their renters to fend for themselves.

"I am so glad we never moved out there with everyone else," I say for what feels like the fifth or sixth time this week.

I'd feel worse about applying to another alliance if the situation were different, I suppose. If we were actually sharing in the dangers of the Catch region, if we had even met any of our alliance mates in any meaningful way, or if we had benefited in even the smallest way from membership in said alliance.

As it is, none of those things are true, so it feels a bit like breaking up with a penpal you never really corresponded with, just so you can take their name out of your address book.

"Nothing personal. No, seriously. Nothing."

It's exciting (at least to me) to potentially be joining up with a group that actually has similar interests to our own -- their public channel has already been a wealth of information in less than a day of listening in -- and it mostly balances out the potential downsides, like the possibility that we'll have to leave our current home to move into one of the (20 or so) wormholes that will bring us into direct contact with the alliance during a trial period.

Still, there's so much potential upside that even the prospect of disassembling our whole operation, moving it back to our home system, moving it again, then reassembling it all isn't enough to sap my interest.

Is it? We'll see...

Though I certainly can't speak for everyone; CB has misgivings about a major move, especially if it means another move after the 'trial period', but admits that there are some good things mixed in with the bad. We'll just have to see if it's even something we have to worry about, and that's a concern for another night.

In the meantime there are Sleepers aplenty to shoot right where we are, so that is how we conclude the evening.


Life in a Wormhole: "We're like Keystone Kops out here." #eveonline

I get online later than normal and it takes CB and me awhile to get organized -- usually, I've scanned the system before anyone else arrives and have sussed out the lay of the land, but when that doesn't happen we all kind of mill around like a flock of sheep that knows it's time to leave the barn, but can't seem to locate the frakking door.

God sheep are stupid. Fucking hate those animals. Anyway. I digress.

I scan the system and discover our high sec exit is only a few short jumps from a market hub. Convenient, since CB wants to pick up a heavy tackler cruiser I'm trying to talk him into naming "Huggy Bear". He declines, but does head out for a little shopping.

While he travels, I go through all the sites currently showing up in the system and realize that while we were hunting our neighbors the night before, I activated the 'three days until I vanish' timer on a couple of gas clouds in the system. We should probably do something about that, such as harvesting the gas before it dissipates. This also works with our limited timeframe tonight, because gas clouds don't take a tremendous amount of time to hoover up (at least the ones in our system don't). The main problem with that we only have one gas harvesting ship between the two of us (Gor has one as well, but the fittings are too advanced for our crappy gas harvesting training).

Luckily, I have worked up a few theoretical designs for gas harvesting cruisers (of course) and have CB purchase the parts for a Thorax-class hull and appropriate modules while I finish scanning. After that, it's a simple matter for me to run out and pick up the ship, then race his new Celestis-class tackling-cruiser back to the wormhole.
CB > "This thing looks like they took a piece of every Gallente frigate in the game and welded it together into one slightly-larger ship."

CB grabs the Vexor-class cruiser we already had in system, I stay in the Thorax, and a few minutes later the Exxon Valdez and Peace Pipe are headed out to do their work.

We each take a cloud and spend the next 10 or 15 minutes sucking gas into our holds, watching the directional scan, and talking about corporate Alliances.

Currently, our corp is a member of a larger alliance of corporations that looked like it was going to be a good fit for us. When I first started talking with one of their members on the Gallente Hero channel, it seemed like a group full of folks just like us, and I think that was actually true... for the time prior to our joining.

However, not long (15 minutes or so) after we joined, the Alliance CEO got it into his head to become very involved in industry activities in null-security space. He decided he wanted to start making capital ships, and that basically means nullsec is required. To his credit, he was able to strike an agreement with one of the big Alliances in the game that holds a fair amount of nullsec territory; said agreement involved our alliance paying rent for the system, gaining nominal sovereignty in said system, and making use of the system to build ships that it then sold... to the Alliance we were already paying rent to.

Pretty much what that 'negotiation' looked like.

I checked out the so-called 'secured' system when it first opened up, lost a ship about 20 feet from our front door to some pirates who hadn't gotten the memo about our system supposedly being "deep inside totally safe territory", and somewhat lost interest in this scheme.

I think we found our wormhole the next day and decided to try that out instead -- serendipity, that.

Indeed, we have never regretted not joining the rest of the Alliance out in the Catch region under the not-so benevolent fist of some larger alliance. The only real frustration with the situation as it stands is that the Venn diagram describing our interests and the interests of everyone else in our alliance contains two non-intersecting circles.

Kind of like this.

In short, we've been looking for a different alliance to join for quite awhile now. The main problem with this is that wormholes don't really lend themselves to alliances -- it's hard to help your allies out when the connections between systems are randomly generated every day. Not impossible, but hard, and most people can't be arsed to do it, so they stick with single corps, beholden to none but themselves.

That's fine, but joining a corp we don't have complete control over presents a number of security problems for Gor, due to the fact that he's got... umm... some stuff from a few years back... that we're not going to get into... that's kind of valuable, and it's harder than hell for a mere corporation member to keep that stuff (or knowledge of that stuff) out of the hands of the guys who run the corp. The only solution to that is to BE the guys that run the corp.

So we need a wormhole alliance. Except there really don't seem to be any extant in the game.

Or so I thought, until I found one.

That alliance is what CB and I are talking over while we suck up gas clouds -- looking over the pros and cons and generally seeing a lot of checks in the "plus" column. Eventually, the Exxon Valdez fills up and CB flies back to the tower to empty his hold. His return to the gas cloud is all the local sleepers need to wake up, and a half-dozen small, fast frigates warp in on top of CB to say hello.

This next bit is kind of embarrassing.

"Don't worry," I tell him, "same thing happened to me last week. Just kill em with your drones -- that ship can take the damage."

"You sure?"

"Sure. Three frigates? They'll be dead in no time."

"There are six."

"Six?" I frown. "Oh, right. Then you better fucking run."

He does so, muttering under his breath, and the sleepers head my way, which is luckily almost 100 kilometers distant; it gives me plenty of time to distract them while CB gets into a proper combat ship, then warp away before they can get within range of my more fragile ship. I arrive back in the tower just has he's heading back out.

"What are you flying?"

"The thorax."

"The... dude, that's a PvP ship. And a cruiser. With blasters on. That's not going to go well."

"It'll be fine... they're frigates!"

I wait.

I think about a minute passes.

"How's it going out there?"

"Yeah... I'm... yeah. I'm gonna die. On my way back."

Now its' MY turn to get into a combat ship, and I go for the Hurricane that I used very successfully against sleeper frigates the day before. I head back to my gas cloud as CB returns, not nearly as beat up as he'd indicated, but ready to switch into a more appropriate ship all the same.

Once again, I find myself over eighty kilometers away from the sleepers, but the small ships obligingly move to close the gap, and have just about gotten in range of my autocannons when CB returns to the field of battle in a drone boat.

"Jesus, you're like 100 klicks away from me."


"Whatever, come clos-- oh, nevermind, they just switched to me. Sweet."

And so they have: sensing a new target (or an old nemesis), the sleepers do a hard 180 and take off back to CB, leaving me unable to shoot them worth a damn thanks to the short range on the projectile weapons on the 'cane. I start after them, engaging my afterburner, but it is going to take time -- even a fast battlecruiser is still a battlecruiser, and not the speediest ship in the game.

Then, just as they got in range of CB and his drones... they switched back to me.

"Dammit, I had a lock on one for about 10 seconds and now they're too far out again."

"Good. That means they're coming back to me."

Except it didn't, because as soon as they got in range of my guns...

"Oh great, they're killing my drones now."

"Jesus, this is embarrassing."

"We're like Keystone Kops out here."

"This is when we get jumped by like eight battleships from the next system over."

"We're fine; they'd be too busy laughing at us to shoot."

Eventually, they died.

Very eventually.

I promised CB I wouldn't say how long.

Gor logged in right after we'd reshipped back to our harvesters.
Gor > So what's going on tonight?

Ty > Gas harvesting.

CB > Yuuup.

Gor > Any excitement?

CB > Nnnnnnope.

Ty > Fraid not.

CB > Pay no attention to those sleeper frigate wrecks.

Ty > We'd rather not talk about it.

Gor > Do I want to kn--

CB > No. You really don't.

Ty > It's for the best.


"What do you Get out of it?" #eveonline

So last weekend, De asked me what it is that I get out of EVE; what the payoff is for me.

She definitely wasn't looking to be sold on the game, because she knows herself well enough to know that there's really no way she's going to be sold on the game. Hell, I know that much.

So she was very specifically looking for some kind of insight into why I seem to be enjoying the game so much. On the one hand, I'm a gamer right down at my very core -- I just like games, especially certain kinds of games -- so looked at from that point of view, it's hardly remarkable that I'm into a game. For that matter, given my personality, it's not even that remarkable that I'm obsessing a bit about it.

However, I play a lot of games, and I don't write about all of em.

Sure, I do actual play reports on table top RPGs I play, but those tend to be unique, non-repeatable situations -- I don't write about sessions of Castle Ravenloft, or Bang, or Jungle Speed, because while those are fun experiences, they are repeatable, commonly-held experiences that will not vary tremendously from anyone else's sessions of the same games. When it comes to a game like that, I can pretty much say "we played Shadows Over Camelot and liked it", and everyone who's played SoC will nod and know pretty much exactly the sort of experience we had at the table.

The same can be said about a lot of the MMOs that I play. If I'm writing something about Wizard 101, I can pretty much say "We went to Marleybone and did the whole questline series there", and everyone who's played Wizard 101 will nod and know pretty much exactly the sort of experience we had. If I write at length about Wizard 101, it will be about the singular and special experience of playing an MMO with my daughter for the first time, and how much fun that is for me, because (a) that's the really awesome part and (b) it's the part that's different from everyone else's experience.

Ditto for Lord of the Rings -- much as I love the game (and I do, truly, love that game), the gameplay itself will be close to the the same for me as it is for anyone else. I can say "I ran all the quests in Evendim this weekend", and that's a Known Thing. In that case, the only real difference is the people I play with and the socialization -- it's multiplayer for a reason, after all: that's the GOOD part.

So then there's EVE, which I'm not playing with my daughter or with a really large group of awesome folks (like LotRO). I'm often doing stuff online by myself, or with just one or two other guys.

So why write about it?

Put simply it's because in EVE, as in those table top RPG sessions from which I do recount individual events (Burning Wheel, Diaspora, or whatever), the actual day-to-day stuff that happens in EVE is singular and personal. There are 30 or 40 or 50 thousand people on at any given time on the single live server, and yet I know beyond any doubt that no one is doing exactly what I am doing; the experience itself -- my experience -- is wholly unique.

And somehow, I feel that when I'm playing, and it gets me excited about the game. Further, it makes me want to, if not tell people about it, then at least record it.

It's possible that I'm imagining this sense of having a unique, personal experience, but I don't think I am. I'm getting a lot of feedback on the posts of writing, both from people who don't (and probably never will) play EVE, and from players with characters who've been around since 2003, and that feedback is largely very positive and (I think this is telling) with the veteran playerbase, it gets people excited about playing the game.

I'm a fairly old character, just getting back from a break. I've done just about everything in EVE: missioning, mining, highsec wars, ganking, faction warfare, 0.0, incursions; everything except wormholes (spare a couple short expeditions). I've been debating what to try next, and that seems like just the thing.

I find your posts interesting to read, and I've read several other posts from your blog as well (but mostly the EVE stuff). I've even related the content of some of your stories to other non-eve-playing friends (the day you chased the frisbee) in order to illustrate some of the ups and downs of EVE to them.

You give me hope that I might, one day, get my small group of noobs safely into a WH.

These are folks who've been playing, in some cases, for years. I've been playing about seven months.

Imagine a player in LotRO talking to someone who's been playing since the first beta of the game -- what are the odds they're going to be able to tell them stories or really anything about the game that that veteran player doesn't already know -- hasn't in fact already experienced one or a dozen times themselves, firsthand? Slim. Vanishingly slim.

But that's EVE. Everytime you play is different in some way - small or large - from every other player's experience.

That's most of it. There's other stuff, like nerding out about fitting ships (reminds me of all the late nights we spent in college playing Battletech and Mechwarrior) and all that kind of stuff, but basically?

Basically, that's the part I like.


Life in a Wormhole: Missed Opportunity #eveonline

It's early in the morning -- very early, thanks to the tiny copilot half-asleep on my lap -- and the C1 connection from yesterday's sleeper massacre in a Tech-3 Production system is still up and functional. I decide on a little carnage to go with my oatmeal.

Sleeper sites in a Class 1 are fairly survivable, which can make them quite fun, if you plan for it -- it lets you fly ships and fittings that you might not otherwise find that workable, and this morning I leave my Gila monster in the shed and pull out a Hurricane-class battlecruiser sporting a half-dozen nice, quick autocannons and an afterburner propulsion module that will cost me some strength in my tank but give me a lot more mobility against the swarms of sleeper frigates that invest Class 1 sites.

My plan goes pretty much as I'd hoped; the 220mm ACs convert the frigates and cruisers into pretty explosions very efficiently, and the afterburner gets me right up in the face of the few ships that like to hang out at 50 kilometers playing whist and gossiping.

Concept art for Sleeper Escort cruisers.

The only bit of annoyance is the fact that frigates as a group seem to switch targets more often than other types of sleeper ships, which means my small flight of drones takes a real beating. I understand why many pilots avoid using drones altogether in Wormholes, and eventually I just leave mine in the drone bay and let my autocannons conduct negotiations, but that's an exception for me, not the rule; I'm Gallente, with piles of training time in drone-related skills, and frankly with a little heads-up attention to the combat overview, I've found you can avoid all but cosmetic drone damage most of the time.

With the fight over, I head back to grab a salvaging ship, at which point I discover the other small problem with my choice of ships for today: all that dogfighting left the sleeper wrecks spread out over about 250 kilometers, instead of the conveniently tidy pile of corpses my stationary Gila tends to gather up. Salvaging operations take quite a bit longer than expected.

A bit too long, as it turns out: when I warp back to the wormhole connection to our home system, I find only empty space; looks as though the connection finally succumbed to old age while I was trying to sweep up my mess.

Ahh well: this system has a persistent connection to high security space, so all I need to do is find it. Pretty much every ship I take into a foreign wormhole has a probe launcher on it, and the Bane o' the Minmatar is no exception. I take the salvaging modules and tractor beams offline, put the launcher and cheap cloaking module online, and a few minutes later I have my exit.

I'm even lucky -- the C1 exit is only a half-dozen jumps from the current entrance to our system, so I drop off the loot en route, pick up a few replacement drones while I'm in a station, and I'm back in the tower 15 minutes later.

I still have a bit more time before my regular day needs to begin in earnest, so I hop into a more appropriately equipped scanning ship and track down the new C1 connection to see what we've got to work with today.

Unlike the old system, with its many factory-towers and only one sleepy security guard, this new wormhole has but a single tower and much more active occupants. A bit of work with the d-scan leaves me sitting outside their tower in my covert ops frigate, watching the comings and goings of several pilots, members of a corporation that seems to be a "3M" corp (recruiting for miners, manufacturers, and mission runners). There's no mention of wormholes in their charter, and indeed they seem to be focused mostly on mining at the moment; I see a Covetor-class mining barge warping in and out of the tower, and given his trajectory, it takes me a single pass of my combat probes (dropped well outside the range of d-scan) to determine the general location of the asteroid field it's mining. I don't bother getting a more precise, warp-able set of coordinates for a couple of reasons.

  1. There's a good chance the probes would be spotted if they got in any closer to the site, and I don't need to spook and/or rile the locals.
  2. The only real reason I'd have for locating the site is to shoot the mining ship, and that would feel a little bit too much like shooting Gor or CB. If nothing else, I don't want to explain how I blew up one of their brothers-in-ore when I have no better reason than 'felt like it'.
  3. I need to get ready for work and I don't have time to screw with these guys right now.

It's that third point that proves the most compelling, and I return to the tower and leave the neighbors to their work.

I log back in later in the evening and see a message from Gor, who apparently had to log out before either myself or CB got on.

"Multiple pilots in the system. Looks like they're hitting that Radar site you mentioned wanting to save for tonight. The name of their corporation is [Corp from the Class One]."

Well, crap.

Sometimes it pays to be a nice guy, and sometimes it bites you in the ass. Problem is, you never know which is which until afterwards.

CB and I scramble some combat ships, but the slow regen on the PvP ships' shields delays us yet again, and by the time we are combat ready, the Loki-strategic cruiser, Hurricane battlecruiser, and Thrasher-class destroyer (probably their after-action salvaging boat) are already back in their system.

Tira is over there, and she has combat-scanning probes available, so once things settle down, she drops them into the system and takes stock.

Unbelievably, the locals are mining again. Worse, they are mining in the exact same field I chose NOT to scan that morning, their Loki and Hurricane swapped for a Covetor-mining barge and a Mammoth-class industrial hauler.

I could kick myself.

This is why I should have scanned down the site, even if I didn't think I was going to need the information; even if I'd been spotted this morning, it would have given the locals over 10 hours to calm down, and I'd have a instantly-available warp-in point to exact some revenge with a couple stealth bombers. Instead, I need Tira to find the site while our targets are probably already on alert, and then put herself at risk in a non-combat ship, trying to get us a good landing position while sneaking around an asteroid field full of stuff that can easily disrupt her cloak.

Suboptimal, to say the least.

In any case, it doesn't work -- the locals spot the probes before Tira can pin down their location, and by the time she's within visual range of the field, they've swapped their mining barge and hauler for the Hurricane battlecruiser acting bodyguard for a much more durable transport ship that's picking up all the canisters of jettisoned ore. The 'cane could still be a viable target if she can get close, but they're over a hundred kilometers away, and head back to their tower and log out before she can close the gap. No joy in Mudville.

It's almost like you're getting karmic payback for hitting all those sites in that German wormhole a few days back, when they connected to us, says my internal commentator.

Yeah, I think back. Very astute. Very ironic. Shut up now.

We collapse the stressed-out wormhole between our two systems and console ourselves with shooting sleepers in the home system, so we're hardly posting a loss for the day, but the evening serves as a good reminder that there's a fine line between 'decent guy' and 'foolishly optimistic'.

I'm still not too great at seeing which side of that line I'm standing on at any given moment.


Life in a Wormhole: The Lulling Sounds of Laser fire #eveonline

The home system continues to recover, new sleeper sites popping up like dandelions, and while the tasty radar anomaly beckons, I prefer to save those for nights when everyone is online, so the best move for this evening looks like hitting our C1 connection, which leads us to a system that is (nominally) populated, but much-neglected. It's quite common to find class one wormholes where the inhabitants have set up a (large) number of towers kitted out for the production of "tech 3" cruisers built from designs reverse-engineered from sleeper ships and their recovered technology.

(Yeah, the pinnacle of current ship-building technology in EVE is a series of modular cruisers built from the salvaged parts of sentient machines that attack humankind on sight. I'm sure nothing will ever go wrong with THAT.)

Anyway, this looks like that sort of system: almost a dozen towers all churning away at various technological enterprises, only a single pilot online; a little research indicates that the pilot is a dedicated tower-refueling alt who appears to be sleeping on the job. No matter: dozens of sleeper sites beg for a good shooting. We are only too happy to oblige, and find ourselves adequately equipped for the task. As usual, I get Ty into one of our Gila cruisers, Bre grabs her Drake, and CB downgrades from his Dominix into my heretical, shield-tanked Gallente battlecruiser we've dubbed the Myrmidrake.

Despite the fact that the thing looks like a misused toy some child dropped off a fire escape, I've grown to love the capabilities of this ugly, UGLY ship. Small enough to enter Class 1s, able to solo everything up to Class 3s, and tied for the largest drone bay in the game, which gives it all kinds of versatility. Best of all, you can get one all-but-free by completing the Gurista Pirates epic story arc. Love it.

The run goes smoothly, the local pilot (like the kid sprawled on my lap) is lulled into unconsciousness by the regular, searing hum of sleeper lasers clawing at our shields, so we are not interrupted in-game or out. CB and I split up salvaging duties while Bre sits overwatch, and we split 110 million isk for the evening.


Life in a Wormhole: Still Doing it Wrong #eveonline

We've spent the last couple nights chasing after looters out of high-sec without being able to actually catch them -- in response to this frustration, CB has put all other training on hold in favor of getting into warp-disrupting Sabre-class interdictors, but that's still a long way off, and in the meantime these PvP shenanigans feel more like shooing pigeons away from statues we just got clean.

I am determined to make a bit of cash this evening, and EVE's random number generator acquiesces; our previously barren system now boasts several sleeper anomalies and a tasty-looking radar signature that indicates a rarer site from which ancient technologies can be retrieved.

Tonight, however, my eyes are set further afield. The class one system we're connected to boasts a persistent connection to nullsec (whose inhabitants are - collectively - shockingly uninformed/uninterested regarding wormhole space and thus less likely to drop in for a visit), two abandoned and offline towers, and a shaggy garden full of good-if-not-great sleeper anomalies to run. Could I make a bit more money in our home system? Probably, but if I take the fight into the C1 instead, I can make decent ISK and let our system continue to recover from recent predations. Win-win.

Bre and Ty slip into a Drake battlecruiser and Gila cruiser, respectively, warp to the C1 wormhole, jump through, and warm up the guns for some money-making funtime.

Except there's a Drake on d-scan, and it isn't Bre's Fatbottom Girl. It seems our sleeper shooting will have to wait. Again.

Ty reships into his Cheetah-class cov-ops frigate and slips back into the C1 to take stock of the situation, while Bre stays put at the tower to see what ship choice is going to be most indicated.

I get back into the system to see the starry sky festooned with scanner probes -- I already know the pilot isn't a local to the system, and the probes seem to indicate that he's not looking to tangle with sleepers. What is he looking for? Apparently, the answer is "the wormhole leading back to our system."

Oh goody.

The probes continue to close in on the wormhole, so I slip back into our system and make preparations. A Myrmidion-class battlecruiser designed for up-close brawling seems like a good choice for drake-wrestling; Bre supplements this with a Blackbird-class cruiser loaded to the gills with electronic countermeasures that should nicely castrate the Drake's offensive capabilities, and we both head off to safespots in the system to stay clear of the Drake's directional scan while Tira watches the C1 connection in a covert ops frigate.

Eventually -- after perhaps a bit longer than I'd expected -- the Drake emerges from the wormhole, takes stock of the situation, launches a handful of scanning probes, and cloaks.

Again, the probes are an interesting choice; if the pilot were looking to hit more valuable sites than those in the C1, they are easily located with a quick pulse of the on-board ship scanner. The fact that he's using probes indicates that he's looking for something else, and my guess is it's an exit to high-security space.

That tells me what I need to do.

Ty warps back to the tower, moving somewhat brazenly due to the fact that it's actually quite difficult for a pilot to both control the triangulation of the scanner probes while remaining diligent on directional scan. Odds are very good that a cloaked battlecruiser will simply ignore d-scan entirely while it searches for the exit, and that gives me a chance to set things up.

I grab a mobile warp disruption generator out of the corp hangar and warp to our current wormhole exit to highsec. The "bubble" is a tried and true tool that I'm fairly familiar with from my time in OUCH -- once anchored and activated, it creates a five kilometer wide bubble in space that yanks ships out of warp and drops them (hopefully) into your waiting grasp.

The main problem with the bubble is placement. Five kilometers seems like a lot, but it's something of a pinprick when set in open space (which is somewhat bigger). The two main ways to set it up are either between point A and point B (where it will act as a roadblock) or actually behind point B, along the same trajectory as A-to-B, where it will actually drag the victim past their destination and (hopefully) disorient them.

I opt for the "drag" placement, and burn 25 kilometers "behind" the wormhole to anchor the device. I could and in fact should set it up two or three times further back from the wormhole, to ensure that the Drake will be too far from the wormhole to realistically make a run for it, but I can see that the probes are closing in, and a Bubble that's a bit too close is, to my mind, better than one that isn't set up at all. Moving as quickly as I can, I drop the bubble, anchor it, and warp back to my safe spot.

Bre, on the other hand, warps in to within visual distance of the wormhole, and cloaks up. She'll be working this fight from comfortably long range, and the targeting delay that comes from decloaking won't affect her for long enough to matter.

Then it's just waiting. I shoot an out of game email off to Gor and CB to let them know there's violence in the offing.

More waiting...

And waiting...

And waiting...

It occurs to me that a Drake isn't really a very good exploration ship.

Or that the pilot isn't a very good scanner.

More waiting...

Finally, the probes vanish, and the Drake appears on scan, presumably warping to his newly discovered exit. Ty enters warp en route to the bubble to greet him.

Unbelievably, everything actually works as intended. The Drake overshoots the wormhole and drops out of warp just inside the wobbling warp-disruption field of our little tarbaby. Bre bravely holds her cloak until Ty can provide a beefier alternative target, and the Drake wheels, fires up afterburners, and starts burning back for the wormhole just as Ty lands and turns to pursue.

Keeping up is no problem, and the Myrmidon is fit with a single-target warp scrambler that keeps the Drake from warping away even after it escapes the bubble; the Myrmidon releases drones, sets them to attack, and starts chewing through the Drake's massive shield tank with a half-dozen 425mm autocannons, firing at all-but point blank range. The Drake starts to counterattack, but Bre decloaks and starts cycling ECM modules against the target, preventing a target lock.

There's only one problem.

We're too damn close to the wormhole, and the Drake is too damn tough to take down in the limited space we have to work with. Despite overheating everything worth overheating, the battlecruiser makes it to the wormhole and slips out into high security empire space.


Now, the casual observer might wonder why I even care about this guy. He's clearly on a road to somewhere else, and if all he wants to do is use a couple of wormholes to get from points A to point Z, who cares? I could just shoot sleepers and leave him be, right?

Probably not -- or at least, I have to assume not. Maybe he'd leave us alone as he ferries things back and forth, yes. On the other hand, maybe he calls in six to sixty of his best mates and they drop on us like a ton of bricks while we're getting our sleeper-shoot on. Given that that is a possibility, I have to assume it's the likely possibility, and react accordingly. Ideally, this would mean blowing up both his ship and his pod, then collapsing the wormhole so that he has no way of getting back here.

This result is fairly suboptimal. At this point I might as well--

The wormhole warbles, and the Drake reappears.

I'll be honest: I just sit there for a second. I mean... dude, you just got away from a bubble trap, and you came back? What are you, me?

My immobility is short-lived. I reestablish my target lock, Bre resumes her jamming, and my guns begin their comforting chatter. I don't know what he's up to, but --

He jumps back out to highsec again.

Okay. No. This is -- No. I don't have time for this kind of cr--

I'm getting a private comms request.

From the pilot of the Drake.

You know what? I'll take it; it's certainly not the first time I decided to talk to someone that EVE logic says I should be shooting at. I hop out into high-sec so I don't get jumped by fifty Drake-buddies and open comms, noting that the Drake itself is only a few kilometers away.


"Hi there. I was wondering if you would mind it if I ported some supplies through the wormhole here. I don't want any trouble, but I really need to finish the supply run, and I'd appreciate it."

I ponder this, and as I do, CB logs in.

For most EVE players, there are only a few options in this situation:

  • Say no, and spend the evening harassing the guy, possibly killing one or more of his ships.

  • Say yes, on condition of payment, and then spend all evening attacking him anyway, possibly killing one or more of his ships, and cackling about how you managed to get him to pay a fake toll.

  • Say yes, take the toll, then collapse the wormhole on him and log out.

All of these options are built on a basic assumption: "If this guy gets what he wants, it will in some way make the game worse for me." Some players will tell you that the assumption is "If he gets what he wants, he'll take advantage of you somehow," and while that may be true, I don't believe it's the main reason, which is that many players will screw with other players simply because the option exists. Maybe that's fun for them, I don't know.

Personally? I think that's an exhausting way to think -- I can be careful without being a complete asshole.

"What's going on? Who's dying?" CB asks.

"One sec," I reply, and flip back to the private comms.

"Here's the deal," I say, "personally, I don't really want to hunt you all night -- I've got other stuff to do -- but all this business just got my corpmate online when he was going to take a night off, and that is a real hassle for him. I feel bad about pulling him online for no reason. I want to make it up to him."


"Specifically," I continue, "I want you to make it up to him, by paying us a reasonable fee for passage."

"That..." he replies, "sounds reasonable, provided you aren't just going to kill me anyway."

I take a breath. "You don't know me, obviously," I type, "but let me assure you (for what it's worth) that I don't do things like that. Ever."

Time will tell.

I hit enter, then stare and screen and add. "Ultimately, you can either pay me and hope I'm telling the truth, or not pay me and know for certain I'll harass you all night. Up to you. Keep in mind I need to trust you not to be pulling some kind of doublecross as well by bringing in a fleet to wipe me out while I'm about my business."

He wires the money to me a few seconds later, with a bonus.

"Excellent," I reply. "You have free passage. I'll go take down the bubble so you can move around easily.

And that's what I do.

"What happened?" CB asks.

"Some guy is hauling supplies back to his hole, and we're the best route for him. He paid us a toll, here's your cut." I wire him most of the money. "Sound good?"

"I just got paid for logging in for two minutes," CB replies. "Sounds fine by me. Later."


He logs out, and I return to my original sleeper shooting plans. Four sites drop in quick succession -- fewer than I'd planned on, thanks to the interruption, but still decent -- and I proceed with looting while Bre goes back to the tower.

In mid-salvage-operation,  I get another message request from the Drake pilot.

Could be a trap.

Could be a lot of things. Could be pie, for all you know. Answer it.

I do. There aren't so many people in our home system that I have a surplus of conversation opportunities, and in any case, this is another wormhole dweller -- a different breed from a lot of EVE players -- the odds of them being someone I respect are generally higher (even when they're trying to kill me).

"Hello again."

"Hello. This is going to sound weird."

"I'm ready for anything. Shoot."

"I just have a really long, really boring supply run to do, and you're the only person I know who's logged in."

I laugh, almost loud enough to wake up my kid. "We do have to find our EVE-friends where we can, even if it's someone that was shooting at us an hour ago."

"Indeed. Feel like chatting about wormholes while I fly?"

"Sounds good. How long have you been out here?..."

And that was the evening. I wrapped up the salvage, hauled it to the nearest market, sold it off for a solid profit, and kept chatting with the lone Drake pilot, who lives somewhere out in wormhole space in a tiny little C1 system with a nullsec connection (like the one I'd just looted, but somewhere else). He'd been unable to do a supply run for almost a month, and was getting a bit desperate when he found tonight's route out.

I was also the first person he'd seen in almost two weeks -- he lived in his system solo; just him and his alts. Before he set up a tower, he'd lived out of his ships, roaming wormholes, and didn't 'touch ground' in known space for almost two months. I whistle softly.

"That's pretty impressive."

"It's what I enjoy."

"That, I understand."

I'll probably never talk to the guy again. I'll almost definitely never see him again in our wormhole -- the odds of getting that kind of connection between our systems again are vanishingly slim -- but I have a good chat during a slow part of the game with a guy who happens to share many of the same interests as I do.

And none of that would have happened if I'd done things "right" when the opportunity for betrayal and extortion presented itself.

Playing the way I choose to play is wrong, by many player's lights, and it will undoubtedly cost me at some future point when someone plays me for a sucker -- I will lose a ship, or ships, or maybe something even bigger.

But in the meantime (and probably even afterwards), as long as things like this evening continue to happen, as far as I'm concerned, I'm winning.


Life in a Wormhole: Kicking the Anthill #eveonline

It's an early Saturday morning, and the cupboard (by which I mean "our home system") is bare. The random number generator hasn't been particularly kind the last few days, and there's nothing interesting to shoot as far as the eye and my on-board scanner can see.

However, my scanner can't reach into our neighboring system, so I'll head over for a bit of a shufti. The local class one system is empty and boring, but we have an inbound connection from a class two system like our own, and that looks a bit more promising.

My first directional and on-board scan is a bit odd. I don't see any towers or ships, and there are a fair number of Sleeper anomalies showing up on my overview, but not the several dozen or so that you tend to see in an overgrown, uninhabited system. So: someone has been active here, but not in the last few days. Interesting.

I jet around the system in my Cheetah cov-ops frigate and after a bit more searching I'm able to find the local residents' tower, anchored at one of the twenty or so moons orbiting a gas giant. No ships, piloted or otherwise, float in the tower shields, though at least some of that can be explained by the time of day -- the corporation is German, and I happen to be quite familiar with the play schedule of pilots from that part of the world; they generally wouldn't be on right now. Also, a quick check of Wormnav and a few other info sites shows a very distinctive pattern -- every five to seven days, there's a huge spike in Sleeper ship kills with deep valleys of almost no activity in between. This would seem to indicate that we are GO for sleeper killing, except for the somewhat troublesome fact that the last Sleeper-killing binge was about six days ago, which means I'm poking around the home of some weekend star-warriors who might wake up to find me eating their porridge.

This doesn't prove to be much of a deterrent.

I wake up Bre, and she and Ty strap into pointy ships for a bit of internet spaceship mayhem. Once back in the neighboring system, I review the anomalies available and notice that there is a very nice group of high-profit sites in a convenient cluster that's within the 14 AU directional scanning range of the local tower. Perfect: I can shoot sleepers with the most lunch money in their pockets and still watch the tower for any change in activity.

The combat proves to be fairly easy -- maybe the sleepers don't like the hour of the day either -- but in any case I have to deal with very little target-switching nonsense taking out my poor helpless combat drones. We're able to mop up a half-dozen sites in less than an hour and bookmark the location of the wrecks left behind so I can come back afterwards with a salvaging ship.

The timing of this is important -- given an hour to decant, the elements of the sleeper site that make it incredibly easy to locate with a simple onboard ship scanner will have vanished (postmortem decay?), but the wrecks with all their lovely candy innards will still be floating in open space -- this means that it will be that much more difficult for anyone to find me while I'm poking around with a fragile salvaging ship.

Which is exactly what Ty does. Bre jumps into a Buzzard covert-ops ship simply because she's more comfortable in that than her drake, and I'm off to my bookmarked wreckage in a Catalyst-class destroyer with tractor beams and salvaging modules bolted on in place of railguns.

Two sites go down in quick succession and I'm on to the third when Tira pokes her head in to see how it's going.

"Just shooting sleepers and taking their stuff in the system next door."

"I see," she says. "Don't you get angry when people do that to you?"

"Well, yeah..." I reply, "but... this is EVE."

I can hear her roll her eyes. "Do unto others and then shoot them when they try to do unto you?"

"I guess." I continue to suck wrecks into the hold of the Catalyst. "But the thing is this: I might like it if folks didn't wildcat our system, and if not doing it to other people meant that other people couldn't do it to us? That would be great."

"But it doesn't."

"Definitely. So if I'm going to get done-to..."

"You might as well do unto. Gotcha."

I nod, and check d-scan again.

I spy with my little eye... Germans, logging on for a little bit of evening Sleeper shooting.

Heh. Oops.

The first couple ships that show up are haulers and other non-combat types, but that doesn't last for long. I can only imagine the bustle of activity as their first d-scan shows them dozens of sleeper wrecks and a salvaging ship.

Artist's approximation of their directional scan results.

Industrial haulers and mining ships are swapped for battleships, which don't actually worry me since they won't be able to determine my location. New pilots keep connecting, however, and one of them switches to a scanning ship, which is somewhat more worrisome. A few seconds later, my d-scan is showing scanning probes in the system, and I know that my time is running out.

A smart man would have already left.

A more reckless but still smart man would have left as soon as the scanning ship showed up.

Me? I keep salvaging.

Why? It looks like they aren't going to be able to find me directly, because the scanning probes in the system are those designed for finding wormholes and other anomalies, not the combat scanning probes used to locate ships. This isn't that unusual -- the combat scanning probes are bloody huge, and require an expanded probe launcher that is an absolute pain in the neck to fit on most ships. These guys don't seem to have them, which means that they'll have to find our wormhole connection and wait for me there.

I figure I've got a least a few minutes before --

That's about when Bre tells me that she's watching the home-side of our wormhole, and a battleship just jumped through and went into close orbit.


Well, at this point, I can launch my own probes and scan for the other exit out of the system (just as likely, if not moreso, to be covered), or I can make a run for our wormhole and hope for the best.

Or, I could keep salvaging wrecks.

I decide to keep salvaging wrecks.

I've just got to the final anomaly, and I set about collecting the most valuable stuff while I consider the situation.

I have a riled group of pilots who seem to think I have shot their Sleepers and am currently packing all the loot into a giant red bag, like a spacesuit-clad Grinch. No idea where they would get that impression.

Said pilots are parked on both the home side and, let me check... yes, also THIS side of the wormhole leading home. Said ships include a couple of battleships and -- far more worrisome -- a small stealth bomber on the this side of the connection; a ship that's actually small enough to get a lock and jam my engines before I can warp away.

I can imagine them right now: sitting on the wormhole, weapons hot, pounding the d-scan for everything they've got, watching the list of sleeper wrecks on the overview dwindle, one by one.

"Bald," they mutter. "Bald wird er mit seiner Bergung durchgeführt werden, und wenn das letzte Wrack weg ist, werden wir bereit sein für ihn."

Which of course gives me an idea.

Since they are very likely watching d-scan for their cue as to when to expect me, I grab only the wrecks most likely to have valuable resources and, with a lot of loot still on the field of battle (and still filling up d-scan), I warp to the wormhole.

I think it's fair to say that I catch them with their lederhosen down.

The Manticore-class stealth bomber not only doesn't try to lock me, but is actually a few thousand meters too far away from the wormhole to follow me when I drop out of warp and slide into the wobbling distortion that will take me home. A Dominix-class battleship follows, but it's far from likely he'll be able to lock me before I'm gone.

I don't wait for my session change timer to elapse on the other side before I move -- in some cases, it's smarter to do that, because it gives me the chance to use the wormhole to escape back the way I came, but in a ship like the one I'm in, I couldn't take the pounding such a move would require -- if I can't warp away, I'm as good as dead, and successfully warping away comes down to the simple question "did I surprise the bomber pilot enough?"

I initiate warp, and the destroyer slowly wheels in the direction of our tower. The battleships (two) start to lock me, but my eyes are on the wormhole, which shudders as the Manticore slips through. I can see the ship fade into view, can imagine the pilot getting his bearings, find me on the overview, and start his target lock. He will need only seconds.

He doesn't get them. I'm gone.

Safe in the tower, I tally up the loot while Bre watches the activity around the hole. 75 million isk and a healthy shot of adrenaline to start off the day -- not bad for ninety minutes of work.

Tim and Kim are waiting, and it's time for us to head out for the day, so I sign out and shoot a quick message over to my other corpmates.

Exercise caution in the system today. It's possible I riled up our neighbors.


Very possible.

About a half-hour later, my phone rings. It's CB. The conversation that followed was weirdly familiar.


Life in a Wormhole: What are the Odds? #eveonline

It's been a few days since the Rattlesnake/Orca Debacle of Aught-leven, and things have been quiet around the home system -- not only a lack of violence, but a lack of anything to do violence against -- we're depressingly low on Sleeper sites to hit, and the class1 systems we connect have also been pretty picked over.

In a system with a persistent connection to something other than a class one, this wouldn't be as much of a hindrance as it is, because it doesn't take a tremendous amount of effort to collapse the connection over and over until the random number generator gives you a more attractive destination -- it takes about fifteen minutes and (basically) one pilot per 'reboot'.

The small C1 connection, ironically, is far more hassle to bring down, because it has limits on the size of ship it will admit. Specifically, you can't take a battleship or an Orca through, and those are our two main hole-crashing tools. In fact, the biggest ships it will allow through is a Drake-class battlecruiser -- a fine ship that would need something like fourteen round trips (with a 4-minute break between each) to close the hole.

We *can* crash if we really need to -- Gor, me, Bre, and CB (all in battlecruisers) only need about 3 round trips, plus change -- but most evenings the effort isn't worth it.

So, we don't have much to fight right now.

What we *do* have are extra wormholes. In addition to our static connection to empire space (near Jita - eww), we have an inbound connection from Amarr space (again, eww) and yet another connection from... that's another high-sec connection. Sheesh. Maybe this one will be more useful than the other two.

Useful? Why yes. It is in fact a direct connection to our highsec home system.

I laugh out loud over voice comms, because the odds against our little system randomly connecting to our other little system in the whole of New Eden space is -- if you'll pardon the pun -- astronomical.

The shock doesn't last for long, though -- there too much we can to do to take advantage. It's the perfect opportunity to (finally) take some ships out of the wormhole that we don't really need, and even sneak in a few we'd like to try out; CB and I waste very little time marveling at our good fortune.

Gor returns while we're scurrying about -- back from a two-day trip abroad. While we consolidate our resources, he works quietly in the hangars of our highsec base, saying very little.

Finally, he posts a link to a ship schematic in our corp channel. "Ty, can you take a look at this for wormhole work?"

I peer at the tiny screen, then export the whole thing into my ship building program, because I figure I can't be seeing it right. "That's a Proteus."


"I didn't know you had a Proteus," I comment, trying not to drool over the high-tech strategic cruiser built on reverse-engineered Sleeper technology.

"I have three," Gor replies. "I don't fly them very often."

"So I gathered." I don't comment further on this massive understatement. "You want to bring this in for sleepers?"

"I'm considering," Gor replies. "Just considering. If we can find a build that works."

What neither of us are saying is that this little cruiser -- something that can be configured to do anything from stealth recon, fleet reinforcement, or facemelting combat -- costs, easily, as much as the Rattlesnake that he lost less than a week ago.

It basically looks like this, but even more awesome.

"How's the tank?"

"Well..." I look over the numbers. "Actually, it's kind of terrible."

"It's currently configured to be a blockade runner."

"Gotcha." I tap the screen. "Which subsystems do you have?"

"All of them," Gor says, "Go crazy."

I do so. I've never messed with a strategic cruiser in the Eve Fitting Tool (no point in pining for something I can't fly), and it takes me a bit to get used to the many subsystems available, but once I figure out what goes where...

"Wow. Holy... wow."


"Yeah." I send him the schematics. "Put it together like so."

A few minutes pass. "Done." There's a pause. "Ty, this looks really good."


"CB, are you back from your supply run?"

"Yup. What's up?"

"I want to try out my new ship on some Sleepers."

And that's exactly what we do.

When Gor decides to jump back in the saddle, he doesn't do it by half-steps.


Life in a Wormhole: Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight #eveonline

Daruma. Our corporation's patron spirit.

"New rule," says Gor. "When one of use loses over a half-billion isk in ships in one go, everyone gets to take the rest of the night off."

"That's a pretty good rule."

It's the day after the Day that Will Live in Infamy, and we are Standing Back Up, each in our own way. Berke is flying the new Orca over to the Sinq Laison region when CB messages me.

"I don't have a PvP ship in the 'hole. What should I get?"

CB's never been one for preambles.

"You have the Marie Celeste," I reply.

"Good ship," he comments. "Really good. But it'll pop if B isn't around. Need something heavier. Brutix? Another Dominix?"

I start running comparisons using his skill set and various PvP builds I've saved.

"Ultimately, the Dominix is probably the best for face melting," I eventually say, "but right at this moment, for you, the Brutix is going to be more effective." I send him a configuration for the Brutix that plays to his strengths as an armor-tanking Gallente. "Something like that."

"Lotta guns."

"It's a Brutix," I say, scanning the battlecruiser's loadout. "Guns are what it does." I frown, and flip open another screen. "Alternately, if you want something that's almost as dangerous, but way cheaper to lose if things go pear-shaped, check out this Thorax." I shoot him the schematic.

"Cruiser?" I can almost hear him peering at the screen. "Like a big tackling ship?"

"Yeah. It won't be as tough as a Brutix, but the whole fit'll cost about half as much as a naked Brutix hull. You could damn near buy those things in six-packs."

"I like six-packs," he murmurs. Then: "Okay, I'm going to go pick one of those up."


Gor has been been quietly hopping in and out of the system, and asks me how much longer I think we've got before the current wormhole collapses of old age.

"Probably about an hour. How much time do you need?"

"That should do. I'm taking my battleships out of here."

"You sure?"

"They don't work well against sleepers, and even if they work, they're clearly too slow when we get jumped."

"You taking the Dominix out too?"

"No, that's fit for PvP. It stays."

"Whatever you need, man, it's all good." I know not to press Gor on this move. He's been playing EVE four or five times longer than CB and I combined, and knows what he wants. I met him on another MMO, in which he might be called "reckless" or more charitably (and accurately), "bold", but his approach to EVE is different -- he's more careful, more (some would say "sufficiently") paranoid, and doesn't like to see his time investment (embodied in the ships he owns) wasted for no good reason. The loss of one of his Rattlesnakes stings. The fact that he even undocked in the 'snake is a testament to how comfortable we've grown in our new home. No doubt a bit too comfortable.

I take a different approach to ship loss, trying as hard as I can to see each ship as a tool, more expensive but ultimately just as disposable as the ammunition it uses. I refuse to refer to losing a ship as 'dying', so long as I get my capsuleer pod away, and if a ship will cost me so much that I start acting like Cameron's dad, I don't buy it.

To be fair, I can indulge that kind of attitude because I simply can't fly some of the awesome ships Gor can; a Rattlesnake would be completely safe in my hands, simply because I don't have the skills necessary to undock the thing.

Except for the Orca, of course, which is roughly five times more expensive than any other hull I own. Nice job throwing that one into a fight you'd already gotten away from, moron.

CB is back in the home system, storing his new Thorax cruiser, and wants to know if we're going to hit any Sleepers tonight. Gor opts out of the action, preferring to get a bit of distance from a major ship loss before putting another one at risk.

CB and Ty hop into pointier ships, now that Berke is docked in the official corp offices, and B stays in her covops boat to play watchdog -- a single combat scanning probe covers our small system, and I pulse it regularly, watching for any new signatures on scan. This should tell us immediately if anyone comes in through our preexisting entrances (the way Berke's assailants did), or if a new wormhole opens unexpectedly (which is what happened with Gor).

In short, we do what we should have already been doing. Fiery explosions are the best teacher, I suppose.

The sleeper shooting goes well, and we net a fair profit that pales slightly in the shadow of recent losses, but I'm glad to be back to our normal activities.

Ultimately, I can kick myself over the mistakes we made in losing the Rattlesnake, but I can't hold a grudge against the guys who blew it up. The fact of the matter is we live in a wormhole, which connects randomly to folks able and willing to throw handfuls of violence our direction. To an extent, that's why we're here. Too much hand-wringing over losing a ship is a bit like going on the log ride at the amusement park and then complaining when you get wet.

"Wet" is kind of the point.

I just wish like hell it hadn't been such a pricey ship.

Come to that, I'm not even mad about losing the Orca, especially since it was pretty much entirely my fault -- the only thing that really gets me steamed is the defaulted ransom agreement, which strikes me as really poor business practice on the part of my attackers. You want to capture and ransom people as a way to make money? Fine. You want to capture and offer ransom, and then kill your captive anyway? Long-term, that's just stupid; not a display of any particular skill as much as a demonstration of the Greater Internet Dickwad Theory.

But that, too, is the game, and if New Eden is full of folks like that, then I'll feel that much better when (next time), they don't get the best of us.

We learn by falling down.

Just have to keep standing back up.


Life in a Wormhole: "Don't Go After the Frisbee" #eveonline

This is one of those stories that makes people who don't play EVE swear that they're never going to play EVE.

The corp members have had, collectively, kind of a crappy day, and that has crept into the emails that have gone back and forth talking about Worst Case Scenario planning. In short, I'm already grumpy when I log in, and rather than scanning the system straight off, as I usually do, I wander through the corp hangars spray-painting red Xs on the hulls of ships I've earmarked for removal from the system.

CB logs in and, seeing a lack of fresh bookmarks, takes a scanning frigate out into the void and scatters probes across the system. I finish my culling as he zooms in on one of the current wormhole exits and lighten his load by scanning for the other -- a highsec exit to Amarr space; not exactly the best option for taking our dust-collecting hulls back to our home in high sec, which lies in far-distant Gallente space. Maybe another night.

Gor arrives as we wrap up scanning. His time is short, but he's in the mood to shoot things -- I imagine we all are, given the day we've had, but CB surprises me by making his excuses and taking off for the night. Gor only has about an hour to with which to enact some violence, but "luckily" our system remains only sparsely populated by cosmic signatures of note -- there are only two sleeper anomalies to smite. (It's been so long since we've seen a mine-able asteroid field in the system that it's starting to bother me, and I don't like mining.)

Gor hops into his Harbinger battlecruiser, I grab Ty's Gila and we're off to anomaly number one. The fight goes smoothly enough, but it's one of the more annoying sites: the ships are spread out, refuse to close to more civilized ranges, and "feature" a pile of energy-draining frigates that all seem to think Gor's harby has been dipped in some kind of intoxicating syrup -- normally sleepers switch targets with annoying frequency, but these ships flat out refuse to leave the laser-toting battlecruiser alone, and Gor's left unable to run most of his lasers or any of the active shield resistance modules on his ship. The passive shield holds up under concentrated fire, but as I've said in the past, such "we won't know if it's going to hold until it's down to 33%" defenses are nerve-wracking for Gor, who prefers the comforting pulse of an active shield booster or a couple armor repairers.

We finish up the site, loot the wrecks, and see that we have just a bit less than a half-hour remaining before Gor turns into a pumpkin.

"Do you want to run the other site?"

"Do you have time?"

"... yes, but let me get a different ship."

What Gor pulls out of the hangar is a Rattlesnake-class battleship -- an impressive piece of Gurista pirate engineering that melds all the best parts of two different ship design philosophies; it's a massive thing -- a slow and powerful missile and drone platform that (unlike most larger ships) performs extremely well with the 'fast-regen' shield builds that work so well against sleepers. I don't particularly like battleships, but I like the Rattlesnake -- it's essentially the big brother to my Gila (another Gurista design), and a whole lot prettier.

It's also an extremely expensive ship, and not one that Gor pulls out for sleeper combat very often.

"The harbinger's shield held," he comments, "but I like it better when it doesn't move at all. The Rattlesnake's doesn't move at all. Plus it ignores the energy draining."

He makes a good point. I decide to speed things up as well, and get Bree into one of her Drake battlecruisers to bring her leet target painting skills in and buff up all the missiles we're going to hitting the sleepers with. I tend to avoid running two pilots in a combat site at the same time unless CB is along to keep an eye on the directional scanner, but needs must when you're trying to move fast.

Sure enough, the three missile-hurling, drone-dispensing ships start tearing through the sleepers with laughable ease, though I do have to scramble more than I like to keep my drones out of harm's way -- the sleepers seem to think they are the ships we've dipped in honey this time around.

I'm in the midst of another drone rescue when Gor says, "What are those Tengu's doing on?... get out. Get out!"

To my shame, I don't hesitate. The tiny Gila pivots toward out tower and enters warp in seconds -- the Drake takes only slightly longer; Bree has time to see several Tengu strategic cruisers, two Drakes, a Buzzard covert ops ship, a Blackbird electronic warfare cruiser, and several other pointy ships... all burning straight at Gor's Rattlesnake.

"Can you get out?"

"I'm trying -- nope, they've got a scrambler on me. And jammed: I can't target anyone. I'm screwed. Dammit."

Against NPC ships, even truly tough ones like Sleepers, the Rattlesnake's defenses are impervious; the simple fact is that those ships can't do enough damage to 'break' his tank. Player-flown ships can mass in greater and greater numbers or simply overheat their weapons, however, pushing hard enough to overcome the inherent regen of the Rattlesnake's shields. Like a surfer, once you've gotten past the crest of that wave, it's all downhill -- just a matter of simple subtraction.

It's all over surprisingly quickly; too quickly, really, for a ship that cost roughly half a billion isk.

Gor manages to escape in his capsuleer pod and get back to the tower, which I count as a small victory, but the mood that stayed with us throughout the day has stained our evening as well. A few minutes later he needs to log out for the evening anyway, and I send him off with several more heartfelt apolo-dolences.

I'm left alone in the system.

I wish I could say the bad news stopped there.

Left to my own devices, I get into my Cheetah-class covert ops frigate and quickly locate the wormhole Gor's assailants came in from -- a new wormhole connection from their system into our own; one that it seems they discovered and opened while we were running the first site; it simply wasn't there to find when CB and I had scanned earlier. I poke around their system to see if I can determine their plans, but they seem content to bask in their victory and float inside their tower shields.

I return to our system and reconsider the exit to highsec that I found earlier. Amarr space is (as I said) far from our Gallente stomping grounds, but at this point I just want to do something productive, so I get Berke to start loading our dustier hulls into his Orca and hauling them out to the nearest highsec station -- I'll worry about getting them home once they're not here.

This goes well; Berke drops off three loads of ships and heads back in for what should be his final trip of the evening -- any more jumps than that and the wormhole will collapse.

Sometimes, timing is everything. The massive Orca slides up to the wormhole and jumps through just as a small fleet of very pointy ships drops out of warp and follows it into the wormhole.

To my credit, I don't panic. The orca is a big ship, and can take a hit. It's slow, but unless I am very unluckly, I don't actually need to move to escape -- I should be within jumping range of the wormhole on our side, and just need to wait on the "session change" timer to let me go right back out into high security space.

The timer lapses, and I'm free to jump. I drop my session change cloak and watch as two Harbinger battlecruisers, a Proteus strategic cruiser, and an Arazu force-recon cruiser decloak and go weapons hot. Can I take that kind of punishment?

It doesn't matter, because I'm not sticking around to find out. I let the cool warble of the wormhole whisk me away, and I'm back in the safety of high-security space, where I am absolutely sure I can survive anything that set of ships can dish out long enough for CONCORD to arrive and turn them into tinier bits of space trash.

I'm safe.

This is where I make a whole new set of mistakes. As with many of the major screw-ups I've been party to in my life, this cascade of failure can be traced back to a single point of ignition where I decide to do math. Don't try this at home.

It occurs to me that the repeated passage of Berke's Eclipse has heavily stressed the wormhole. I know to a nicety how much Orca-love this class of wormhole can take, because I've collapsed a fair number of them in the past with this very ship.

I run the numbers, and I realize that if I jump through the wormhole one more time, hold my session change cloak and then jump back (as I just did), I will collapse the wormhole and leave my attackers stranded inside.

WHY I would want to do this never occurs to me; all that matters is that I can. The hour is late, we'd lost Gor's Rattlesnake and I'd now run from a fight (albeit successfully, and in an Orca, which anyone with sense would call a major win), and all I can think is that I want to beat them somehow: not just escape, but win. Outmaneuver them. Shame them. Something.

So I jump back in.

Yeah: After I got away, I went back. I'm not as smart as I look, sometimes.

They see the wormhole activity, of course -- it's not a subtle thing, when you hurl a 250 million kilogram ship through a rift in space -- I start counting the seconds until my session timer elapses. Five... Ten...

Then a Maelstrom-class battleship that had not decloaked during their first attack does so, and jumps through the wormhole, it's mass more than enough to bring the overstressed exit crashing down, leaving me stranded with no way out, next to four very pointy ships.

Could I sustain that kind of damage and escape?

The answer was no.

Once they have ripped the Orca's shields and armor away, their leader opens comms and offers to release my ship in exchange for a ransom. It's a not uncommon occurrence; there are many in New Eden who actually make a living via this kind of 'catch and release' approach to PvP. I've had reasonably good luck on the receiving end of such things in the past -- I successfully negotiated a ransom to save CB's pod several months back, in fact, and Bree was, until recently, part of a corporation that frequently practices that kind of gentleman's brigandry in nullsec.

He names his price (which, at 200 million isk, was less than half the price of a new Orca hull), and I agree. Ty wires the sum to the spokesman.

Then they blow up the ship anyway.

"Really?" I ask the leader, as I watch the structure of the ship disintegrate and prepare to get my capsuleer pod to safety.

His first response is little more than sputtered epithets, uttered in all caps -- a kind of text-based ejaculate that doesn't do much for my opinion of the group.

"Whatever you say, mate," I respond. "Just seems like a pretty poor way to conduct business." The ship explodes and I warp my little pod away.

"I will sleep well," he cackles. "Resting on the pile of stuff your ransom will buy me."

"Split five ways," I counter, "that's a pretty small pile." I think for a second. "And in any case, you'd have gotten than money whether you blew up the ship or not, so all this gets you is a non-combat ship kill and..." I check the combat log that the game had just sent me. "A large afterburner? That's it? Wow."


"Hardly. I'll just buy another ship. But you need to think next time: this is EVE, and you're conducting bad business. How can you get expect repeat customers when everyone knows your product is crap?"

He has no reply to that, and I don't bother pursuing it. I'm busy contemplating our corp's second half-billion isk ship-loss of the evening. It never rains, but it pours.

Ty scans the new exit, only a few jumps from the old one, and I wrap up what can generously be termed a sub-optimal evening by picking up a new Orca (thank goodness we had the old ship fully insured) and leaving it under contract for Berke to pick up. Tomorrow, he can pick it up, fit it out, and haul those empty hulls back to their new/old storage hangar in Sinq Laison-- I think it'll be okay if the new command ship stays in highsec for a few days.

"I had a bad feeling," CB tells me the next morning in an email. "That's why I logged out; just had a bad feeling. A 'Don't Go After that Frisbee in Old Man Yaeger's Yard' kind of feeling. I should have said something. Next time, I will."

Next time?

Oh yes, there will definitely be a next time. Otherwise, how will be apply what we've learned?

  • We didn't scan diligently or often enough.

  • I was distracted, trying to run two pilots at the same time, both of whom had to additionally micromanage drones against opponents who frequently switch targets, meaning that I was simply too busy to maintain situational awareness beyond the immediate Sleeper threat.

  • Gor and I were rushing.

  • With all those things going on, we just shouldn't have undocked the Rattlesnake; that kind of ship is like a beacon for opportunistic hunters, and requires heads-up play if it's going to be put on the field.

  • I'd got back to the tower and had no real options available for getting Gor out of trouble. Bree has pretty decent ECM skills, but no appropriately-equipped ships in system. Ty has PvP brawlers, but as I've mentioned before, it takes ages before their shields are back up to combat readiness once I undock. There just wasn't much I could do with the ships I had.

And from the Orca Incident, let's add:

  • If you get away, don't fucking go back in, you moron.

  • Ransom deals sometimes work, but never when you're dealing with scumbags based out of lowsec.

An educational night. Let's hope we were paying attention in class.


Life in a Wormhole: Worst Case Scenarios #eveonline

Gor really shouldn't feel bad about struggling with fittings for his ships in the wormhole; sleeper combat is a bit of a cold-water shock for lots of players -- I remember the very first time we snuck into an unoccupied wormhole and tried out a combat site: three of us, in what we thought were the best ships we could bring, and we barely - barely - made it out the other end in one piece.

That same type of sleeper site is one that, only a few months later, any of us can handle solo; a combination of better skills, better intel on the site, and better ship builds.

I'm reminded of this when I log in today and go poking around the system. According to CB, when I logged out the night before, the Megathron-class battleship and a Drake-class battlecruiser we'd spotted earlier had decloaked and started running one of the combat sites -- on his own, there was little CB could do to stop them -- but when I check the system, the Sleeper population seems unaffected. Maybe the sites already respawned?

I'm able to piece together what actually happened a little while later when I take a Gila-class cruiser out to test a different flight of drones -- the sleeper enclave I warp into is missing a few of the ships I'm used to seeing in the welcoming committee, and as combat progresses, I'm able to verify that the first (easiest) wave of Sleepers has already been eliminated from the site -- presumably by the Megathron and Drake -- but in such a way as to activate not one but both of the following reinforcement waves, leaving the high-sec tourists facing a pair of Sleeper battleships as well as a double handful of cruiser-class ships in support. I can easily imagine that that much concentrated firepower would send an unprepared pair of pilots back to known space in a hurry, and I have to be honest -- the thought makes me smile: the fleeing ships are who we once were, not so very long ago.

My Gila will not be dismissed so easily; the crooked frame of the tiny cruiser strains a bit under the welcoming missile assault from two simultaneous waves of ancient enemy ships, but my shields prove more than equal to the task and the new flights of sentry drones acquit themselves admirably. I stow the Gila and clean up the wrecks as though it's all second nature, and I suppose it is.

Once that's done, I do a bit more rearranging of tower modules and ponder the inventory of ships we currently have packed away in case of emergency. We've been sending quite a few emails back and forth today, trying to decide if we want to haul some of our excess 'backup' ships out to high-sec when the opportunity presents itself, simply to make it easier to move or downsize in the future.

Part of this is due to the Germans' departure; the sharp drop of allies in the wormhole has all of us feeling a bit exposed, wondering what we could save if we come under concentrated attack by some other wormhole corp -- but it's also basic preparation for some future point when our other time commitments cut into our ability to be online and maintaining things. Summer is ending, and all of us have a lot more work to do when higher ed sessions kick back into high gear.

We're not talking about moving anything out that sees regular use, but at this point we could keep every pilot's regular-rotation ships (for pve, pvp, mining, scouting, hauling, et cetera) plus two backup ships for each major role, per pilot, and we'd still have well over a dozen hulls gathering dust in the hangar. That's an excessive level of redundancy even for us.

I don't know that I accomplish much more than a basic sorting of ships into high-use and no-use piles, but it feels a bit like progress, and by then my cohorts are online and ready to shoot some sleepers. We clear the sentient drones out of our system, then use a series of battlecruiser jumps to collapse the connection to a boring class 1 system next door and clear out sites in the new system as well -- our luck with loot remains pretty poor, but even so we net about 135 million isk for the evening; a solid step toward refilling our corporate coffers after a recent refueling run. Despite all the gloomy mood that comes from Worst Case Scenario planning, it ends up a pretty productive evening.


Life in a Wormhole: All Alone #eveonline

The Germans, it appears, are moving out of the system we've been sharing for the last month.

One of their best English-speaking members emails me to let me know of their impending departure, saying only that they've enjoyed their time and that they (the player) don't even know where everyone's going yet, just that they're going.

And I'd never tell anyone else in the group, but it makes me a little sad. Within the corp, we made more than a few jokes during our co-mutual habitation about "sudden yet inevitable betrayal", but the fact of the matter is, it was great to have them around. There aren't that many of us in our little corp, and it was nice to log in at odd times and see some other faces in our shared channel, even when none of 'my' people were on. They've helped us with intel, with shared system scanning duties, even with taking out troublesome vagrants. It'll be a shame to see them gone.

And, indeed, by the time I log in that day, they already are gone; the "Tourist Information" tower no longer on my directional scanner out by the eighth planet in the system. I forward the email on to the rest of the corp and do a bit of scouting while I have the system - truly - to myself.

Gor logs in a bit later and heads out to highsec to pick up a new purchase: a Harbinger-class battlecruiser that he's planning to bring along for sleeper-shooting activities. Gor's struggled with the fitting necessities of the wormhole -- a long-time veteran of running high-level missions in high security space with big, trundling battleships optimized to deal with one or two incoming damage types, he's seen many of his best PvE ship builds sent scurrying back to the tower, drained of power and unable to run his armor repair modules to compensate for the skittle-like rainbow of incoming damage types. His frustration is compounded, I suspect, by the fact that CB and I have been soloing the sites in smaller, shield-tanked battlecruisers and psuedo-assault cruisers like the Gila, using "passive" builds (no repair units, but a very high natural regen) that make Gor a bit nervous -- like a trained stock car driver stuck in a smartcar with an automatic transmission.

We discuss different fitting options for the laser-equipped battlecruiser and come up with a solution that leaves both of us feeling pretty good -- I'm as motivated as Gor to find something that works, because if he doesn't want to fly anything in the Sleeper sites, that's yet another person who won't be around.

"And with the Germans gone, there should be plenty of Sleeper-shooting options," I mutter.

"Yeah..." Gor replies. There's a long pause. "You know, it may sound weird, but I'm really sorry to see them go."


"I know we joked about them," he adds, "but the fact of the matter is..."


We don't say much more about it. Gor gets back to the system and we try out his Harby in a couple combat sites, and then a couple more when CB logs in. The salvage and loot from the sites is... wow. Absolutely terrible. But at least we got a good shakedown run of the Harbinger, which it passed with flying colors. It's nice to see lasers on the battlefield as well -- it's not a weapon either CB or Ty have any kind of training with. The ship isn't completely immune to the energy drain that the Sleepers use (I favor projectile cannons and missile launchers to avoid the problem), but it generally kills things so fast that the problem doesn't come up.

Gor bids his farewells for the night, and CB and I are left to do a little cleanup and rearranging at the tower.

"I'm going to move the mailbox." I'm referring to the shared storage container that lies just outside the shields. "I think it'll work better a little bit further away from the tower, where we can warp to it, and it doesn't matter if I move it, now that the Germans are gone."

"Sounds good," murmurs CB. He's buried up to his eyebrows in parts, working on different fittings for the Marie Celeste, which has quickly become his go-to ship for scouting and warping around the system. The two of us work in silence for awhile. I'm about halfway through a reorganization and reconfig on the tower modules when he announces a new arrival in the system. A Probe-class scouting frigate is on d-scan, as is (intermittently) a Megathron-class battleship and Drake battlecruiser. The two larger ships don't seem interested in tangling, but he manages to get his guns on the Probe in at least one instance -- several shots from the Marie Celeste's autocannons peel the other frigate's shields back before the pilot jumps through the wormhole back to the safety of highsec. We play cat-and-mouse with the encroaching ships until a bit past my normal point of departure, and I find it necessary to make my excuses and log out.

"Talk to you later."

"Later," he responds, but there's a pause that makes me wait for a moment.

Finally: "It's weird not to see their tower on scan."

"Yeah," I say. There's no point in asking who he's talking about. "Kinda sucks."

"It kinda does. Gonna make everything harder." He clears his throat. "Anyway. Later."

I log out, leaving him in our empty system.

In space, no one can hear you sigh.


Life in a Wormhole: Windfalls #eveonline

I return from South Dakota to find our tower brimming with loot. None of it's mine, but that doesn't mean I can't abscond with it! Arrrrgh! Space-pirate booty, ahoy!

Let's see if I can find a...


Hmm. That's not quite right. Need more sci-fi...



Close enough.

(Pro tip: Do not Google Image Search for "Pirate Booty" in a public place. N.S.F.W. Moving on...)

Anyway, I scan out the (very few) signatures in the system, find an exit to high sec, notice that's quite near a good market system, and load up everything into a ship to take out and sell. Prices are good, and I divvy up the proceeds between the corp wallet (which buys all our tower fuel) and the folks who actually did all the work of acquiring the loot, without even charging a "courier fee".

I be a very poor pirate. Yarr.

Not much besides random Sleeper-sniping went on while I was away; Gor mentions good relations continuing with our local German neighbors, and also mentions scanning out the wormholes a couple times while I was gone! Am I crutch for my corpmates? An unnecessary set of training wheels that they don't really need? It seems so, because they do just fine when I'm not around.

On my last day away, I did get a few emails from CB (who thought I was back already) about his failed attempts to mug a heron-class frigate that was poking around our system. By his accounts, he and some of the Germans "almost had him" on several occasions, but CB just couldn't get a target lock in time with the ship he was flying.

"I need a good tackling ship," he writes. "What should I get?"

"Well, a Rifter or an Incursus are the easy, go-to answers," I reply, "or, if you want something good-but-weird, get a Vigil." I'm a big fan of the rarely-seen frigate -- I think it's one of the most under-appreciated ships in the game.

It\'s also one of the ugliest, most ungainly ships -- it looks like a repurposed science vessel and goes like a bat out of hell; all good reasons for me to like it.

When I log in the next day, CB says "Hey, you know that Vigil you suggested?"


"Well, there's one of them in the system, right now."

There's a flurry of activity while I figure out where the ship is located and we prepare to jump it, but when we actually get within visual range, we realize that the frigate is unpiloted. It's been abandoned -- left floating in space about 180 kilometers away from the Germans' tower.

"What do you think we should do?"

"I dunno," I'm still trying to figure out what happened to cause a pilot to leave his ship behind.

"I'm gonna take it."

"That works."

So CB warps back to our tower, stows his current ship, and flies in his capsuleer pod back to the drifting Vigil. The pod and the derelict ship make acquaintances, and pretty soon CB is reporting on the state of the vessel from the interior HUD.

"Jesus, this thing is shot up," he reports. "Armor's at 10%. Stucture's at about half. What happened to this thing?"

I gauge the distance to the Germans' base, check the optimal ranges for their defensive guns, and nod to myself. "He dropped out of warp too close to that tower, started getting shot up, and ejected."

"You think?"

I nod. "Saved himself and the ship, actually. Really quick thinking. AI-controlled guns won't shoot at a capsuleer pod, and they won't shoot at an unmanned hull." I look out at the starry expanse around us. "I wonder where he went."

"I'll sent him a thank-you note for the new ship," CB says. I know him too well to imagine he's joking. "Registration papers say he's been flying since 2006."

"What the hell's he doing piloting a Vigil?"

"Technically, he's not piloting a Vigil," CB points out. "Not anymore."

"True." I take one last look around and head back to the tower to pull out the Lassiter and repair our new asset. "What're you going to name it?"

"Oh, that's obvious," CB replies. "Marie Celeste."